Connection Clusters

As our brains learn something, our neurons form new connections in clustered groups, says a new study. In other words, synapses – connections between neurons – are much more likely to form near other brand-new synapses than they are to emerge near older ones. As our neuroscience friends like to say: “Cells that fire together wire together” – and that process of rewiring never stops. From before you were born right up until this moment, the synaptic pathways in your brain have been transforming, hooking up new electrochemical connections and trimming away the ones that aren’t needed. Even when you’re sound asleep,…

Taking Vision Apart

For the first time, scientists have created neuron-by-neuron maps of brain regions corresponding to specific kinds of visual information, and specific parts of the visual field, says a new study. If other labs can confirm these results, this will mean we’re very close to being able to predict exactly which neurons will fire when an animal looks at a specific object. Our understanding of neural networks has come a very long way in a very short time. It was just a little more than 100 years ago that Santiago Ramón y Cajal first proposed the theory that individual cells – neurons – comprised…

Saving Faces

A brain area that’s specialized to recognize faces has a unique structure in each of our brains – and mapping that area’s connectivity patterns can tell us how each of our brains use it, says a new study. The fusiform gyrus in the temporal lobe plays a part in our recognition of words, numbers, faces, colors, and other visual specifics – but it’s becoming increasingly clear that no two people’s fusiform gyrus structure is identical. By studying this region in a larger connectomic framework, though, researchers can now predict which parts of a certain person’s fusiform gyrus are specialized for face recognition.…

Surprising Synchrony

Our corpus callosum is a bundle of fibers that allows our brains’ left and right hemispheres to communicate – but even in people born without these connections, the hemispheres are still somehow able to synchronize their activity, reports a new study. The brains of people born with a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum (AgCC) – basically, absence of a corpus callosum – show activation patterns that are essentially the same as those of people with an intact corpus callosum. It’s a Neuroscience Mystery! For decades, the corpus callosum’s purpose seemed straightforward enough: though certain areas of our left and right hemispheres…

Transforming Tracts

Our brains don’t stop developing in our teenage years – they keep changing well into our 20s, a new study shows. By imaging the “wiring” of different brain areas, researchers have determined that white matter – connective brain material consisting mainly of the axons (branches) of neurons – continues to grow and change throughout our 20s. This means the connections between different areas of your brain may be transforming even as you read this article. The idea that our brains’ functional connectivity patterns change as we age isn’t new – in fact, I’ve written about it here before. But this new data shows that…